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a jim jividen blog

Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, May 9-15 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dear Internet:

My mom asked who the Countess's date, Courte, from this week's Real Housewives of New York reminded me of (actually, I think the way she put it was "who does this remind me of" - which would save all of us time; I've found this in my teaching as well; I'm teaching US History this quarter, and what I'd really prefer pedagogically is to expose students to multiple historical interpretations - for example, the dominant historical view of the Spanish-American War is it was an imperialist break with the isolationist tradition of US foreign policy; in contrast with the more radical view that it represented an unbroken line of expansionism best understood in the generations spanning Native American cleansing; in contrast with the view held by most Americans in 2010 which would be "what's the Spanish American War" - and while that's kidding on the square, the only view of US history available politically to everyone on the right and a healthy majority of those who are nominally considered on the left is that the US has been an unadulterated force for good throughout its history and anyone who would claim otherwise is insufficiently patriotic and hates the troops and the Baby Jesus.  I'd like to be able to consider the nuances of all of those positions, evaluating the evidentiary support for all and the current political realities which shape our views of the past - but I'm 39 years old and teaching 7 courses and my house doesn't have air conditioning, what I have energy to do is say "here's what you should believe, write it down" and then move to the next thing).

So, who Courte from this week's Real Housewives of New York reminds my mom of is a cross between Jackie Rogers, Jr. and Greg Norman





It's Tendown 26.  Let's Get it Poppin'!

First: The Middle


Eventually, this will be about LeBron James.  I don't know how long it will take to get there.

I don't fetishize the middle of the country; I live in South Florida, I grew up in Northern California, I went to school in Ohio - people are people wherever you go; there is good and bad, in everyone, but if we learn to live, learn to give each other what we need to survive, together ali-i-ive.

What?  A Martin Short picture and an Ebony and Ivory reference before the jump?  Apparently it's Hot Tub Time Machine Tendown.  Modern Family ended this week's Hawaii epside with a wedding vow renewal set to a ukelele version of Eye of the Tiger - which saved that scene from shark jumping; as a trope, the wedding vow renewal has worn me to the bone; there's one on deck for the New York Housewives finale (Ramona has taken the curious posture that 17 years is the longest imaginable time any two people could be married) and I'm only willing to watch if it includes someone playing I Love Rock-n-Roll on the spoons. 

I don't think the people in the flyover states are any more or less American than the people on the coasts; whenever I see a Republican give a speech in Topeka with the theme being "you are the real heart of this country; the true, real Americans and you want your country back" - I hope they see the pandering the same way I did in high school every time someone unleashed a "you are the future of the country; this is your time to shine" on me.  I have rhetorical strengths and weaknesses as someone whose most marketable professional skill is standing in front of a room of people and talking, but one easy place I don't ever rest is the "hey, give yourselves a round of applause" line of bullshit.  A club teachers of all levels and disciplines like to pull out is "I learn so much from my students every day" - which is good egalitarian/we're all just in a community of learning, I'm no different from the kid in the 4th row stuff, but almost entirely meaningless; I've got X minutes to give that student enough information about Mark Twain's reaction to the Filipino resistance to US occupation that he's got a fighting chance on my midterm; I don't have time to slather him in my recognition of his personal struggle.  If I'm working in a grocery store in Des Moines, I'd much rather have a politician tell me he's in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring a living wage so I don't need to keep ever increasing credit card balances just to cover my montly nut than bathe me in platitudes about how my morality is the one true morality.  But that's why he says it, of course.  Sarah Palin doesn't want to cut into the profits of her corporate paymasters so she pacifies me with a strawman of some socialist in Washington DC or a homosexual in New York City or a deceitful immigrant from Mexico - in the way American colonial leaders looked to pit the interests of poor white farmers against Native Americans or the way the slaveholding planation class looked to pit house slaves against field slaves - Republicans today are operating from a playbook even older than the republic - marginalize fringe groups, keep "out" groups in constant animosity toward each other - distract with intangible puffery about an imaginary afterlife where the goodhearted people who have to toil in this world will be rewarded - anything to keep her audience not focused on the economic truth of the United States - that our society is deliberately structured to serve the interest of the wealthiest few - that the role of virtually all of us is to spend the only life we will ever have working constantly to produce wealth for others.  We can read all the books we want, get all the degrees we like, devote our lives to work and service and still wind up in foreclosure - still wind up just a breath away from the dustbin - still wind up just chum in the oil soaked waters of the plutocratic states of America.

I am defeated.  I have, to use Mike Leach's line from this week's Friday Night Lights, lost my inner pirate.

I don't think it's projecting to say that's the look I saw on LeBron James's face this week. 

It's almost always error to attribute character failings to sports losses, particularly when it involves existential talents like James - but it was hard to watch Game 5 this week and not wonder if he was okay.  By the advanced metrics, LeBron James has just put up the two greatest regular NBA seasons since Jordan's prime - and it's not just that the Cavaliers didn't win the title (I did pick them to win each of the last two years, you can see my playoff picks here; the two points in my own defense are these - one, I got the other 3 teams remaining in the playoffs right - and Phoenix was not exactly a popular choice to be the Lakers opponent in the Western Conference Finals a month ago; and two, I did offer a "as long as James doesn't get hurt" caveat. Now the Cavs are gone - I'm picking Orlando to win the whole thing.) it's the seeming listlessness involved throughout game 5 and portions of game 6.  I think it has to be injury; that 2 months from now LeBron has surgery and historically this becomes the postseason about his elbow and not one that revealed some sort of lack of killer instinct fundamental deficiency like we enjoy putting on superstars like Peyton Manning and Alex Rodriguez, right up until the second they win, and then we decide they've grown up, somehow ratifying all of our previous character critique.  So, I'm choosing not to believe any sort of emotional flaw was revealed this week - that instead it was an injury that manifested as a lack of, almost a lack of interest seemingly in being LeBron James this week, but it's a take that I understand.  I'm worn out too; the metaphorical Rajon Rondo is slicing past me for another layup, and I don't have a whole lot of intensity left to stop him. 

And who I felt badly for is Cleveland.  I assume there is a Cavs/Indians/Browns fan of the same level of tenacity as my Warriors/Giants/Niners interest; and that's a town that hasn't won a title since somewhere approximating Jim Brown's first day shooting the Dirty Dozen.  When you consider all three of those organizations as a quixotic combination of awful and heartbreaking, that is just a challenging sports fan life.  I'm sure there were those watching Game 5 and seeing this chance drip away who were just crushed - that Cleveland sports fan, clinging to his guns and his god and his games to escape confronting the structural inequities in his life - the society of which he is a part and probably believes in to a far greater extent than a professor who teaches we invaded Cuba in order to create a market friendly to United Fruit, has no interest in his life except as an entirely disposible unit of production, and the place where he's chosen to escape provides him years and years of endless empty - a Byner fumble, a Jose Mesa meltdown, and the best player in basketball about to leave town - about to leave flyover country - for a bluer coast.

Or maybe he'll go to Chicago.

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.

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